Tornado victim earns diploma

June 1, 2013

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The Habitat for Humanity house first started rocking, then lifted, sweeping up 17-year-old Dillon Whitehead in a whirl of chaos.

Just seconds before, Dillon and his older brother had been watching the hail grow larger, assaulting the house and Rancho Brazos neighborhood.

Then the tornado warning.

“The clouds were going toward Pecan (Plantation) and then turned toward us,” Dillon said. “We saw rotation. We went in the closet.”

Dillon’s mom Christy Green was already there.

Windows began shattering, and the wind started roaring. “We heard that train sound,” Dillon said.

Mom told Dillon’s brother Brandon Whitehead to grab the closet door. “I love y’all,” she told her sons. Then the nightmare really began.

“The house rocked and lifted,” Dillon said. “I went up about 20 or 30 feet. I know I went past the roof.”

Then Dillon saw a strange sight above. Blue skies. He figures he was in the “eye of the storm” though debris continued to fly.

Something smacked Dillon in the back of the head “a 2 by 4 or something,” and he got knocked to the ground. The wind, estimated up to 200 mph, cartwheeled him across the ground, and something else hit him, briefly knocking him out.

He had landed in a field about 50 yards from his house.

He got up and ran to a neighbor’s house for cover. He began to pull glass out of his mouth and off his face and saw blood covering the rag he was using.

He heard sweet voices call his name. It was his mother and brother. They too were hurt but alive.

“I thought they were dead,” Dillon said.

Their house, at 3716 Sundown Trail, was gone. Nothing left but a slab of concrete.

The Whiteheads eventually were taken to the hospital. Dillon had a hairline foot fracture and torn ligaments, cuts and bruises.

He’s recovered nicely. So have his mom and brother.

“I feel real blessed,” Dillon said. “It could have been a lot worse.”

Robert and Glenda Whitehead (down the street but no relation) weren’t so lucky. The couple lost their lives in the tornado. Four others in the subdivision died too.

“When I was getting hit I was fine with dying because I feel I know where I’m going,” Dillon said. “I believe in God. I thought I took my last breath several times.”

People in other neighborhoods have been finding photos and other things sucked up and spewed from houses of the victims. Some of the items have been found miles away. Dillon said someone discovered a muddy letter jacket on their property. It turned out to be Dillon’s. He was presented with it at a choir concert.

Dillon, an A-B student and member of the choir at Granbury High School, was scheduled to walk across the graduation stage last night and receive his diploma.

He plans to attend Texas A&M University and study … guess what?

Meteorology.

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